Reliance, Disney Initiate Legal Steps For India Media Merger

Reliance Industries and Walt Disney have initiated antitrust due diligence for a proposed merger of their entertainment divisions. This strategic union would combine the strengths of Reliance’s vast media assets with Disney’s global entertainment prowess.

What Happened? According to Reuters, Reliance, steered by Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani, has engaged Indian law firms Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas for the process. Conversely, Disney has enlisted AZB & Partners. These appointments signal a significant step towards merging their extensive media and entertainment operations, including a combined tally of 120 TV channels and major streaming services.

In a notable development, senior executives from both conglomerates met in London, signing a preliminary agreement. This move underlines the seriousness of the talks, although both Disney and Reliance have refrained from commenting on the matter.

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More challenges ahead: However, the proposed merger is not without its challenges. It’s expected to attract intense antitrust scrutiny, especially considering the combined entity’s potential market dominance. This might necessitate divesting certain assets, particularly in the television sector, to mitigate regulatory concerns.

The merger’s implications extend beyond corporate consolidation. Disney and Reliance are key players in the Indian streaming market, particularly in cricket broadcasting — a major viewer draw in India. Disney’s Hotstar app holds rights to International Cricket Council matches till 2027, while Reliance’s JioCinema app has recently acquired rights for the Indian Premier League.

This potential merger follows another significant move in India’s media sector — Sony’s planned merger with Zee Entertainment. It underscores a trend of consolidation in an industry that’s increasingly competitive and digital-focused.

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